THE MEDIA: Radio.
WHO SAID IT: Doug Ducey.
TITLE: Arizona governor.
THE COMMENT: “Arizona has put more money into K-12 education over the last three years than any other state in the country without raising taxes. It has been the focus of every budget that we’ve had.”
THE FORUM: A KTAR News (92.3 FM) Mac & Gaydos radio show interview Nov. 6, 2017.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: If Arizona’s budget has invested more in K-12 education in the past three years than any other state in the country that hasn’t raised taxes during the same period.
ANALYSIS: When Gov. Doug Ducey came into office in 2015, he aimed to “reverse recession-era cuts” made to the state’s education budget with the goal of being known as the “education governor.”
Although the state has put money into K-12 education since 2015, it hasn’t fully restored what was cut during the recession.
Ducey’s office pointed to reports by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), a Washington D.C-based organization that analyzes budgets in all 50 states. The series of reports showed whether states increased education spending and what each state’s sources of revenue were during the past three years.
Based on an analysis of the reports by AZ Fact Check, Arizona saw a 13.1 percent increase in K-12 funding in the past three years.
Because Ducey’s statement is that Arizona has increased education spending without raising taxes, the Governor’s Office compared the state’s education spending to other states that didn’t have a tax increase during the past three years.
That tax criterion narrows the list of states to 10, including Arizona. The others are: Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.
Further analysis of the NASBO reports indicates Arizona had the largest percentage increase in K-12 spending among those states (13.06 percent) in the past three years, but just barely.
Ranking those other state percentage increases, Kentucky trails Arizona by 0.1 percentage points, with a 12.96 percent increase. Tennessee had an 11.61 percent increase, and Florida had a 9.93 percent increase.
The dollar difference between Arizona ($732 million) and Kentucky ($677 million) is about $55 million over the three-year period.
The Governor’s Office says looking at percentage increases to compare educational spending is “the most useful comparison among states with vastly different population sizes.”
“Using percentage increase allows us to make an apples-to-apples comparison in the amount of money added to education between a state like Hawaii, which lists a population of just under 1.5 million, with a state like Florida, which has over 20 million residents,” according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.
But some of those nine other states have spent more actual dollars on K-12 education. Florida has increased K-12 spending by more than $1 billion, and Ohio went up by $800 million, according to the NASBO reports.
Comparing the increase to a state’s population is a better way to look at it, according to one researcher.
David Wells, Grand Canyon Institute research director and senior lecturer at Arizona State University, said while Ducey’s statement is “technically true,” the breakdown comes with a few caveats.
“Technically, Arizona can claim a higher percentage increase, but they are still funding K-12 less than Kentucky (per student),” Wells wrote in an email.
While Kentucky spent approximately $677 million over the past three years, Arizona spent about $732 million on education — but Wells noted that Kentucky has a significantly smaller population than Arizona.
Kentucky has about 4.45 million residents, and Arizona recently topped 7 million, according to the latest U.S. Census data.
“On a per-student basis, the increase in Kentucky would be more,” Wells said.
Kentucky spent $13,149 per student in 2017, while Arizona spent $8,296 per student, according to a report by the National Education Association.
Wells said that while states like Utah have increased taxes and put those dollars toward education, if a person subtracted the additional money provided by a tax increasefrom the state’s K-12 spending, Utah would still have a higher percentage increase in education spending than Arizona. Its population also is smaller than Arizona’s.
“You can make the case a few other states have done better,” Wells wrote.
But because of Ducey’s tax-increase criteria, Utah is taken out of the comparison.
BOTTOM LINE: Although K-12 funding has increased 13.06 percent since Ducey took office, solely looking at the percentage increase and excluding additional factors like a state’s population size skews the findings.
The Governor Office’s methodology only compares Arizona to nine states, leaving out 40 others. Some might interpret “more money” to mean that the actual dollar amount increased, and states like Florida increased K-12 spending by more than $1 billion and Ohio increased K-12 spending by almost $800 million.
Some states could credibly argue they have made more significant investments, even with additional money from taxes subtracted. Other large states, like California and Texas, spend vastly more on education than Arizona does on a pure dollar basis (though they have raised taxes).
Factors like population size can create a fuller picture about how much money a state spends on K-12 education. States such as Kentucky and Utah have invested in education almost as much as Arizona in dollars and have significantly smaller populations.
THE FINDING: One star: Mostly false.
SOURCES: Phone interviews with Patrick Ptak, Doug Ducey spokesman and David Wells, Grand Canyon Institute research director. Correspondence with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Association of State Budget Officers. “K-12 Funding Report,” Aug. 30, 2017, Arizona Joint Legislative Budget Committee. “Gov. Doug Ducey announces plan to ‘reverse Recession-era cuts’ to schools,” Jan. 9, 2018, The Arizona Republic. “Gov. Doug Ducey working to track state money for K-12 funding, teacher pay,” Nov. 6, 2017, KTAR.